Abraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi and leading Jewish theologian of the twentieth century, observed that the Sabbath was given to humanity as an “anticipation of the future world” and as an “emblem of eternity.”1
1. Sabbath was instituted on the threshold of human history so that the first couple would always remember their origin, learn to rest in God, and live in the expectation of what the seventh day of the week would bring to their experience.
2. Sabbath is an eternal institution, and its observance was required as a permanent obligation for human beings, extending from created Eden to restored Eden.
I. SABBATH IN THE FIRST EDEN (GEN. 2:1-4)
The Bible tells us that, along with matrimony, one of the first institutions Adam and Eve received in Eden was the Sabbath. The first full day of their existence was the Sabbath. This was a day of celebration and thankfulness for what God had given them when He created them. In Eden, God gave the Sabbath to humanity as a memorial of His creative work.
As a result of the contemplation of His created works, God desired that humanity give glory to His name. Through nature, people should learn about God’s goodness, power, and love. The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2).
Through the continuous observance of Sabbath, Adam and Eve would remember that God was the Creator and Lord of their lives. The process of creation for all things reached its culminating point in rest. God created Adam and Eve to live eternally in Eden. This means that God did not establish the day of rest as a transitory institution.
Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought disgrace to humanity (Gen. 3:14- 24). The first couple had to be removed from the Garden of Eden; however, their disobedience did not nullify Sabbath’s observance. This is clearly indicated by the fact that the mention of Sabbath observance in the Decalogue begins with the word “Remember” (Exod. 20:8-11).
Four centuries later, Christ affirmed, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17, 18). Jesus meant that as long as the heavens and earth remain, the Sabbath will continue to be a day to worship Jehovah.
II. SABBATH IN THE NEW EARTH (ISA. 66:22, 23)
The Bible indicates that God’s original plan regarding man will be made concrete at the end of all things (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1). When God makes a new heaven and earth, His original creative plan will be fulfilled.
There, all trouble will disappear because God will make all things new. Life’s perplexities will be clarified, and a harmony in God’s plan for His children will be seen. The apostle John says that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Heaven will be a school in which God will be the principal and master of all nations. Once sin is gone, God’s people will be able to relate to God face to face. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3).
In the new earth, Sabbath observance will once more become the climax of a new, perfect Creation. On that day, the redeemed will again praise God, recognizing the greatness of His works. The new heaven and earth will be a constant reminder of God’s creative and redeeming work.
The redeemed will recover their lost dignity. There will be no more separation or limitations between the visible and invisible. God’s expectations when He created this world for His glory will be completely fulfilled.
III. SABBATH AND THE LAMB (REV. 21:22-24)
Nothing will harm or threaten God’s perfect universe. There won’t be a new proof of loyalty for the redeemed. There won’t be a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The new earth will be the home of the redeemed of all times. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, will be there, as well as the Tree of Life “which bore twelve fruits” and whose leaves are for “the healing of the nations.” Each month the tree will produce its fruit, and each week the redeemed will gather to worship Jesus Christ, Giver of life, Author and Finisher of our salvation.
Sabbath will be a day marked by the harmonious communion of the redeemed of all ages with the angels of God. On that day, the entire family—in heaven and on earth—will assemble to worship the Lamb of God.
The redeemed of every generation will walk under the light of the Lamb who will abide among them and “the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Rev. 21:24).
In the New Jerusalem, the redeemed will be gathered at the end of every week to worship the Author of their salvation. With reverent joy, the redeemed will cry, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The seventh day of the week was sanctified by God and given to humanity before sin entered the world. When sin entered, God provided the offering necessary for the redemption of humanity. It is around this offering that the consummation of God’s original purpose will be made concrete. That is why, throughout eternity, “from one Sabbath to another,” everyone will come before the Lord to worship Him (Isa. 66:23).
Sabbath was given to humanity in Eden as a memorial of God’s redeeming work. Sabbath will be the day kept by the redeemed in the new earth. The meaning of Sabbath in eternity will revolve around the Lamb of God, author of Creation and finisher of human redemption.
Wouldn’t you also like to become faithful to God in the observance of His Holy day? How about worshiping Him on the Sabbath for all eternity? Why not start today?
1 Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, 74.
Ricardo A. Gonzalez is the dean of the School of Theology at Chile Adventist University in Chillan, Chile.